Chief Guest Mr Wah Sing Yee, Mrs Yee, fellow members of the Fiji Development Bank Board, the executive committee, our generous sponsors, finalists, members of the media and invited guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Ni sa bula vinaka, Namaste and a very warm welcome to you all.
When I first learnt of the theme for this year’s Small & Medium Enterprise Awards “Courage, the sure step to success”, I realised how true this was and how often we forget that courage is an important tool for any entrepreneur.
Starting a business takes courage!
Courage is often defined as the ability to confront uncertainty.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela said “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Martin Luther King Jnr said “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
You can have all the requisite tools to start a business, but without the courage to take that first proverbial step, all these counts for nothing.
For the finalists and of course our chief guest seated this evening, you are the definition of courage! You have conquered the uncertainty of investing in a business and now you are reaping the rewards!
Since the inception of the Small Business Awards in 2004 and later relaunched as the SME awards in 2014, it has always been about rewarding courageous entrepreneurs who have thrived against insurmountable odds.
SMEs are a powerful force for lifting people out of poverty, making them more self-sufficient and giving them a sense of purpose and fulfilment.
In Fiji, micro, small and medium sector contributes $800million to our economy which is around 12 percent of our Gross Domestic Product.
According to statistics from the Reserve Bank of Fiji, there are more than 4,200 registered micro, small and medium enterprises in Fiji.
These statistics is bound to increase with government’s initiatives targeting MSMEs such as the government grant from the Ministry of Industry & Trade and likewise readily available credit facilities from financial institutions such as the Fiji Development Bank to help small businesses get a foothold.
As a development financier, we understand the difficulty SMEs face with limited working capital and lack of collateral to secure loans. Our custom made SME loan facilities ensure that their business ideas become a reality. With 48 years of lending to SMEs, you can be rest assured that we understand your financial need and we can provide a solution that is tailor-made just for you!
This evening we are here to celebrate the achievements of those who were courageous enough to set their dreams in motion. Some of whom FDB has been proud to have had a hand in their success.
Our participants tonight come from various business backgrounds including the culinary industry, farming, fashion, glass production and the legal fraternity and they have also travelled from different parts of the country the farthest being from the garden island of Taveuni.
To you our finalists, a hearty congratulations! The Fiji Development Bank is proud to be a chapter in your story of success.
With that ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce to you our chief guest this evening Mr Yee Wah Sing.
Wah, on behalf of everyone here this evening it is indeed a great pleasure to have you with us tonight.
Thank you for accepting our invitation.
Ladies and gentleman, Yee Wah Sing was born in Lautoka and grew up in the banana growing settlement of Lomaivuna, Naitasiri. He worked as a journalist with the Fiji Times before enrolling at the Fiji College of Agriculture in Koronivia.
He was the only student from his class that took up farming after graduating with a Diploma in Tropical Agriculture in 1981. Over the years, his businesses have included fresh produce exports, food processing, property development and supply of industrial and consumer goods. Yee Wah Sing is the owner of Marco Polo and Garden City in Raiwai.
He has served on various boards including the Fiji Trade Investment Board, Land Conservation Board and is a member of the technical advisory team to the South Pacific Commission. He is a keen gardener and an avid cyclist.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is with much pleasure that I now invite Wah to deliver his keynote address.